Glossary of Episcopal Terms

Glossary of Episcopal Terms

CLICK HERE for The Book of Common Prayer online

TERMSDEFINITION
1979 Prayer BookThe version of the Book of Common Prayer in use in the Episcopal Church.
AbbotThe superior of a monastery.
AblutionsThe cleansing of the chalices, paten and other vessels after the administration of the Eucharist.
AbsolutionThe remission of sins pronounced by a priest. See “reconciliation”and “sacrament.”
AcclamationA response of praise at the beginning of the Eucharist.
AcolyteOriginally a minor clerical order but now a group of lay people who assist priests in the service. Acolytes can be children, teens, or adults.
AdventThe season of the church year in which we prepare for Christmas. It begins with the fourth Sunday before Christmas. Its liturgical color is purple or blue.
AltarThe table on which are placed the vessels for holding the bread, wine and water used in the Eucharist.
Altar crossA cross that stands upon the altar or hangs above it.
Altar guildA lay group that maintains and prepares the altar and its
furnishings for services.
Altar railThe rail or kneelers where the people kneel or stand to receive Communion.
AmenFrom the Hebrew for “verily,” “it is so” or “I agree.” Response said or sung at the end of prayers and some hymns and anthems.
AnglicanThe word simply means “English.” Members of the Anglican
Communion, including the Episcopal Church, are those that derived their origins from The Church of England, which split from the Roman church in the 16th century.
Anglican CommunionAn assembly of churches throughout the world, including the Episcopal Church, which derived their origins from The Church of England and that are in communion with it.
AnthemSacred vocal music sung by a choir.
ArchbishopA bishop who heads a group of dioceses or a national church. The Episcopal Church does not have an archbishop; its chief bishop is called the presiding bishop.
Archbishop of CanterburyThe primate of The Church of England, who is acknowledged as the spiritual, but not governing, head of the Anglican Communion. He is not an Anglican “pope” but is considered “first among equals” by other heads of Anglican Communion churches.
ArchdeaconA priest on a bishop’s staff who has some administrative duties.
AscensionThe feast commemorating the ascension of Christ to glory. This feast is 40 days after Easter and always occurs on a Thursday.
Ash WednesdayThe day that marks the beginning of Lent, a period of spiritual discipline, fasting and moderation in preparation for Holy Week and Easter.
In the Ash Wednesday service, ashes are placed on the foreheads of parishioners by the priest.
CollectA prayer sung or said on behalf of the people by the celebrant or officiant at liturgical celebrations. Pronounced with the stress on the first syllable.
ColumbariumA series of niches, as in a wall or other structure, for the
repose of cremated remains.
CommunicantsThe members of a local church; those who are eligible to receive communion.
CrossUsed in ancient times for executions. Christ was executed on a cross, or crucified, and the cross became a universal symbol of Christianity.
CrossingIn church architecture, the main intersection of aisles at the front of the church; if viewed from above, the aisles form a large cross. Sometimes the altar is located at the crossing. In a service, crossing refers to a hand gesture of making a cross pattern on one’s body; also a gesture made by a priest or bishop over a congregation or upon a person for
a blessing, at death or at baptism.
CrozierA staff resembling a shepherd’s crook carried by bishops and abbots as a symbol of office.
CruciferA person in a religious procession who bears the cross and who leads the procession into the church.
CrucifixA Christian symbol; a cross with a likeness of the body of Christ on it.
CruetsGlass pottery or metal containers for the wine and water used at the Eucharist.
DalmaticVestment worn by a deacon. Corresponds to the priest’s chasuble. See “vestments.”
DeaconThe initial level of ordination in the Episcopal Church and other apostolic-succession churches. In some protestant churches, it is a lay order, but in the Episcopal Church, it is a clerical order. Deacons represent the church in the world and, by tradition, the Gospel is read by the deacon if one is on the staff of a church or chapel. See “diaconate.”
DeanA title used for the resident clergyman of a cathedral; also used for the chief academic officer of a college or seminary. If the dean is ordained, the title “The Very Reverend” is used.
DiaconateThe state of being a deacon.
DioceseA unit of church organization; the spiritual domain under a
bishop. A diocese may contain many parishes and churches.
DismissalWords said or sung by a deacon or priest at the conclusion of the Eucharist. An example: “Let us go forth in the name of Christ.” The answer from the people is: “Thanks be to God.” During the 50 days of Easter, alleluias are added.
DoxologyWords said or sung in praise of the Holy Trinity.
EasterThe season of the church year, in March or April, when the
resurrection of Christ is celebrated; the liturgical color of Easter is white or gold. See “Good Friday.”
EpiphanyOne of the seasons of the church year; Jan. 6; a feast celebrating the visit of the wise men, or Magi, to the infant Jesus; the end of the Christmas season.
EpiscopalFrom Greek, meaning “government by an overseer.” See “episcopos.”
EpiscoposThe Greek word from which the English word “bishop” is derived.
EpistleA reading from the New Testament other than from the Gospels.
Epistle sideThe right side of a church when facing the altar. See “gospel
side.”
EucharistA “good gift” or thanksgiving; the sacrament synonymous with Holy Communion, the Lord’s Supper or Mass, the act of following the Lord’s commandment of consuming the consecrated elements of bread and wine, the body and blood of Christ.
EulogyA speech or homily in praise of a deceased person; brief remarks about the deceased at a funeral. See “requiem.”
EvensongAn evening worship service, often featuring a choir.
FatherA familiar way of referring to a male ordained priest. Formally, he should be referred to as “the Reverend.” A female priest may be referred to as Mother, depending on her preference.
FeastA day of celebration associated with the life of Christ or a
saint.
Folk MassCommunion in which the music is provided by instruments other than the organ, such as a guitar; a less-formal service that may incorporate contemporary music.
FontA basin for water used in Holy Baptism. The Episcopal Church usually practices baptism by “sprinkling” rather than by full immersion.
FractionThe point during the Eucharist when the bread is broken; the priest says, “Alleluia, Christ our passover is sacrificed for us,” and the people respond, “Therefore, let us keep the feast. Alleluia.” The word Alleluia is usually omitted during Advent and Lent.
FrontalA covering for the altar, usually of the same material as the
vestments or of the liturgical color of the season or feast.
GenuflectionThe bending of the right knee when reverencing the altar and at other times of solemn reverence. Episcopalians sometimes bow instead of genuflecting.
Gloria in excelsisLatin; a liturgical hymn having the verse form of the Psalms.
Good FridayThe Friday before Easter; observed as the anniversary of the crucifixion of Christ. See “Easter.”
GospelAny reading from Matthew, Mark, Luke or John in the New Testament.
Gospel sideThe left side of the church facing the altar. See “epistle side.”
Gradual processionThe movement of the deacon or celebrant to the place of the proclamation of the Gospel.
Great ThanksgivingThe major prayer of the Eucharist beginning with the salutation and preface and concluding with the Lord’s Prayer.
Holy ordersThe sacrament of ordination, which marks the entry of the
candidate into the ordained ministry. The orders of bishops, priests and deacons are termed holy orders.
Holy waterWater blessed by a bishop or priest.
Holy WeekThe period from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday.
HomilyA short sermon.
HostThe Eucharistic bread. From the Latin word for sacrifice. See
“Eucharist” and “wafer.”
House of BishopsAll the bishops of the Episcopal church sitting as a legislative
and judiciary body of the church.
House of DeputiesThe lay and presbyter delegates to the General Convention sitting as a legislative body.
HymnSacred words set to music; church vocal music involving the
congregation and distinguished from the psalm or anthem; sacred poetry set to music and sung during the liturgy.
IncarnationThe Christian doctrine that Christ took human form from his human mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and was at once fully human and fully God.
IncensePowder burned in a small dish or pot; used during the service or in the procession to recall one of the three gifts of the wise men to the Christ child.
IntroitThe hymn, psalm, or anthem sung (or said) at the entrance of the ministers at the Eucharist.
Junior wardenThe assistant to the senior warden, who is the chair of the
vestry, the governing body of a parish church. See “senior warden” and “vestry.”
KneelerA cushioned pullout or fold-down stool at a pew onto which the people kneel for prayer.
LaityThe nonordained members of a church; ordained members are referred to as clergy.
LavaboA ceremony during the Eucharist at which the celebrant washes his or her hands. From the Latin “lavare”or”I shall wash.”
LayFrom the Greek laios, meaning “the people.”
Lay ministerOne who is not ordained but who works closely with a church or religious program.
Lay personAny nonordained person.
Lay readerA nonordained person who reads part of a church service, who reads the prayers and who also may administer the chalice at the Eucharist.
LectionaryThe series of biblical readings used in the church throughout the year.
LentThe 40-day period of fasting and meditation following Ash
Wednesday; ends on Palm Sunday. See “Ash Wednesday” and “Palm Sunday.”
LiturgyA word that means “the work of the people;” generally refers to the full text of the words of a worship service or any ritual order for holding a church service.
MagnificatThe Song of Mary. Luke 1:46-55.
MassSynonymous with the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper or Holy
Communion; the holy meal of bread and wine. See “Eucharist.”
Maundy ThursdayThe Thursday of Holy Week; the name is from the Latin word “mandatum” and refers to Christ’s commandment concerning foot-washing; the day on which the first Lord’s Supper was celebrated. See “Eucharist.”
Morning PrayerA morning worship service without communion.
Most Reverend, TheThe way of addressing the primate or archbishop of an autonomous member church of the Anglican Communion.
NarthexAn enclosed space at the entry to the nave of a church; in some churches, it is called the vestibule.
NaveThe main part of a church where the people sit, called the
sanctuary in some denominations. It is derived from the Latin word for ship, as in some churches the beams of the roof resemble the beams and timbers in the sides of a ship.
NunA woman who takes vows of poverty, obedience and chastity and who lives in a convent.
Nunc DimittisThe Song of Simeon (Luke 2:29-32) normally used as one of the canticles at Evening Prayer and Compline; also used at Candlemas.
OblationsOfferings to God at the Eucharist.
OffertoryThe presentation, reception, preparation and offering of the gifts at the beginning of The Holy Communion, the second part of the Eucharist.
Offertory sentenceA passage of scripture that may be said or sung at the beginning or during the Offertory.
Offertory processionAt the Eucharist, the presentation of the bread, wine, and other gifts by members of the congregation.
OfficiantA person who officiates at the daily offices and other rites.
OrdinationA special service for inducting a person into holy orders; the
ritual that makes a person a priest or deacon.
OrdoA list of offices and feasts of the church for each day of the
year. From the Latin word for order.
PallA stiffened square of linen placed over the chalice to keep
objects from falling into the wine. The term also may refer to the cloth covering the casket or urn during the Burial of the Dead.
Palm SundayThe Sunday before Easter. In an Episcopal Church, members of the congregation carry real palms during the service; in some churches, palms from one year are saved, dried and burned to make ashes used at the next year’s Ash Wednesday service. From the palm branches strewn in Christ’s way on his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. See “Ash Wednesday.”
ParishThe group of people of a certain area organized into a local
church; sometimes the word also refers to the geographic region around a church.
Parish hallA gathering place for a local congregation.
Paschal candleA large white candle decorated with a cross and other symbols. It is lighted at the beginning of the Great Vigil of Easter and burns for all services during the 50 days of Easter. At other times, it may be kept near the Baptismal Font and lighted for baptisms. It also may be placed near the casket or urn during Burial of the Dead.
PassoverA Jewish festival commemorating the escape of the Jews from Egypt.
PatenA plate usually made of pottery precious metal and used to carry the bread at the Eucharist.
Peace, TheA ritual in the Episcopal Church in which members of the
congregation, including the clergy, greet one another. The priest says: “The Peace of the Lord be always with you,” and the congregation responds: “And also with you.” Immediately after, the people shake hands or embrace and bid each other peace.
PentecostThe feast on the seventh Sunday after Easter commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles; also called Whitsunday; from the Latin pentecoste, literally, “50th day.” The liturgical color of Pentecost Sunday is red; the color of the season after Pentecost, the longest season of the church year and commonly called “ordinary time,” is green.
PostulantA person admitted by the bishop into the formal preparation for the ordained ministry. See “ordination.”
Prie-dieuAn individual kneeling bench with shelf.
PriestThe ordained minister of a Roman Catholic, Episcopal or Orthodox church; one who administers the sacraments. In the Episcopal Church, priests may be male or female and may marry.
ProcessionThe line of choir members, clergy and others walking down the aisle of a church to begin a service. See “recession.”
ProperThe scripture readings and collect appointed for the day or
occasion. See “collect.”
PsalmsA portion from the ancient Jewish hymn book found in scripture (the Book of Psalms) and in the Book of Common Prayer.
PulpitA raised platform used for the sermon or homily.
PurificatorA linen cloth used for cleansing the chalice during the ablutions or for wiping the chalice during the administration of communion. See “ablutions.”
PyxA container for the reserved host; especially a small round metal receptacle used to carry the Eucharist to the sick. See “Eucharist” and “host.”
RecessionThe line of choir members, clergy and others walking out of the church after a service. See “procession.”
ReconciliationThe sacrament through which one may confess one’s sins in the presence of a priest and receive absolution; commonly called confession. See “absolution.”
RectorThe priest or minister of a local church or parish; the head
priest of a parish.
RectoryThe residence of a rector.
RequiemA funeral or memorial service. A High Requiem Mass is a funeral service with communion and singing of parts of the service. See “eulogy.”
Right ReverendA way of addressing a bishop of a diocese.
RosaryA string of beads anchored by a cross and used for prayer. An Anglican rosary has 33 beads – one for each year of Christ’s life on Earth – divided into four “weeks” of seven beads.
SacramentA rite through which we receive God’s grace. In the Episcopal Church, the “essential” sacraments are Baptism and Eucharist. The catechism describes the sacraments as “outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace.” Other sacramental rites include matrimony, confession, unction, confirmation, and holy orders.
SacristyThe room near the altar where priests vest, or dress, for the
service; the room where the communion vessels, vestments and other liturgical objects are kept.
SanctuaryThe portion of a church at the head of the chancel around the altar; the space immediately around the altar. See “nave.”
SanctusThe acclamation “Holy, holy, holy …” sung or said at the
conclusion of the preface of the Great Thanksgiving.
Sanctus bellA bell or set of bells in the sanctuary rung or struck during the sanctus, elevations, and at other times.
SeeThe ecclesiastical residence of a bishop; the see of our diocese is Jacksonville.
SeminarianA student in a seminary.
SeminaryAn academic institution for the study of theology.
Senior wardenThe chairman of the vestry, the lay governing board of a local church. See “junior warden” and “vestry.”
SextonOne who is in charge of a church building or grounds; the head of maintenance and custodial services.
Sign of the crossThe tracing on one’s forehead, chest and shoulders of the outline of the cross.
Stations of the crossSee “Way of the Cross.”
WaferThe bread part of the Eucharist; an unleavened, thin cracker
imprinted with a cross. See “Eucharist.”
Way of the CrossA Procession with stations commemorating the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Also called the Stations of the Cross. The classical stations correspond to 15 events that occurred in the last 24 hours Jesus was on the earth, beginning with his condemnation to death and ending with his resurrection.